Agriculture is Randolph County’s largest industry as it employees around 8,000 people and because of that an agriculture center has been discussed for many years but the completed 2016 Strategic Plan brought it to the forefront to preserve agriculture. It is estimated that there are around 1,500 farms in Randolph County.
2016 Strategic Plan Goals and Strategies related to agriculture
Randolph County Agriculture (ranking in North Carolina)
#1 in Beef Cows (1/1/17)
#1 in Goats
#2 in All Cattle (1/1/17)
#2 in Milk Cows (1/1/17)
#6 in Hay (2016)
#6 in Broilers (Chickens) (2016)
#8 in Layers (Chickens) (12/1/16)
#6 in Egg Production (2016) (#9 in 2015)
#10 in Total Farm Cash Receipts (2016)
Agriculture accounted for $568,546,742 (2017) in value-added production.
In August 2017, Megellan Strategy Group completed a feasibility study (paid for by the Tourism Development Authority) for Randolph County that explored the economic viability of a new agricultural event center to be located on a 104-acre parcel on Highway 64/Dixie Drive. The study highlighted the huge economic impact of agriculture to the Randolph County economy and the positive impact an agricultural event center might have on Randolph County.
The site of the proposed Randolph County Agricultural Event Center is unique because it is centrally located in North Carolina and also located close to visitor amenities such as hotels, restaurants, and other business operations. The feasibility study concluded that an agricultural center located at this site would facilitate continued growth of agriculture in the county through increased promotion and sales of products, agricultural educational opportunities, and would provide a significant impact to the competitiveness of the county’s agricultural industry. It could also be “an economic development attraction.”
Based on the findings of the feasibility report, Randolph County selected HH Architecture, of Raleigh, N.C., and its project consultant team to begin design of this proposed facility. The team assisting HH Architecture includes Priefert Complex Designs, Stanford White, Lynch Mykins, SME Traffic Engineering, and Benesch Civil Engineering.
Beginning in November 2017, the design team and County staff met with numerous groups to gather information regarding spaces and goals for the Randolph County Agricultural Event Center. Some of these citizen groups included:
Event Center Sub-Committee
- Cooperative Extension Service
Soil and Water
- Rural Development
- County Facilities Committee
- Livestock Arena Sub-Committee
- Forest Service
- Farm Service Agency
- Natural Resources & Conservation
- Municipal & Visitor Support Groups
The proposed Schematic Design for the Agriculture Event Center was presented by Kristen Hess, HH Architecture, on June 4th, 2018. Ms. Hess said this project’s design stays true to what agriculture is, creates a place for community, is sustainable and adaptable, and the prime location in the state, county and on the site.
The presentation included design and location for the office/event center, arena, livestock warm-up and housing facilities, maintenance area, and a farmer’s market. The arena is designed for 2500 seats and the event space is designed for up to 1426 seats or about 820 round table-seats. A special area designated for a farmers market was shown on the site plan. Substantial areas of parking with natural open space are also reflected on the site plan. The arena, warm-up/ housing facilities, and the office/event center are designed to maximize the flexibility of spaces for different size events. The presentation showed the flexibility arrangements of the space from a small meeting to a large event in different areas of the whole complex. There are around currently 1966 parking spaces provided to support the complex.
The proposed design allows for future public/private partnerships as areas are reserved for a possible hotel and related restaurants or commercial activities.
The Ag-Schematic Design Committee met on May 22nd to review and comment on the preliminary design and recommended the name of the complex to be the Randolph County Agricultural Event Center and they also recommended moving forward with the project. Estimated cost of the facility is $58 million.
One of the consistent development themes expressed by citizens during the input phase was the importance of attempting to develop the entire project at the same time. Citizens involved in the process understood that phased development may be necessary but felt this was not the best approach to a project that all felt would have such long term benefit to Randolph County and our agricultural community. The Commissioners did not express opposition to this recommendation of attempting to develop the entire project at the same time instead of phases.
In order to begin development of the full Agricultural Event Center, the Board of Commissioners expressed an interest in placing a bond referendum on the November 2018 ballot for the funding. The bond order would be formally introduced to the Commissioners on July 9, 2018, asking the Board to set a public hearing for the August 6th meeting. After the August 6th public hearing, and with approval of the County Commissioners, the referendum would be placed on the November 2018 general election ballot. If successful, the referendum would allow a property tax increase to cover debt service not to exceed $58 million in general obligation bonds which would allow full construction of the Randolph County Agricultural Event Center.